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Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Three Bills to Stop Exploitation of Kids Online, Six District Court Judge Nominations to the Full Senate

The three bills are part of the Stopping the Exploitation of Kids Online legislative package, continue the Committee’s bipartisan efforts to protect children online

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to advance three bills as part of the Stopping the Exploitation of Kids Online legislative package – as well as six district court judge nominees – to the full Senate.

On the successful votes of the three bipartisan pieces of legislation, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: “In our February hearing that kicked off our legislative effort to protect children online this Congress, I said that this issue isn’t partisan, keeps parents and children up at night, and deserves action. That is exactly what we’re doing. We’ve now passed four bills out of this committee to stop the exploitation of kids online – including the three today. The online world poses serious risks and dangers, and our bills will strengthen resources for families, provide legal recourse and support for victims, and hold Big Tech accountable for its failure to regulate itself.”

On the six judicial nominations advanced to the full Senate for consideration, Durbin said: “Our mission to ensure a fair justice system for America remains as strong as ever – including by advancing diverse, highly qualified nominees for confirmation to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. The individuals nominated by President Biden and advanced by our committee represent the demographic and professional diversity that’s become a hallmark of the past two years, and I look forward to continuing the work.”

Additionally, Durbin welcomed Senator Feinstein back to the Committee, saying: “I believe I speak for all of us with feelings of relief and support for our colleague Senator Feinstein, who has returned to Washington. She’s been through some significant health challenges, and we all wish her the very best.”

The STOP CSAM Act, as amended, cracks down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online. To combat this horrific crime, the STOP CSAM Act supports victims and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms. Specifically, the STOP CSAM Act expands protections for child victims and witnesses in federal court; facilitates restitution for victims of child exploitation, human trafficking, sexual assault, and crimes of violence; and empowers victims by making it easier for them to ask tech companies to remove child sexual abuse material and related imagery from their platforms and by creating an administrative penalty for the failure to comply with a removal request. The legislation holds tech companies accountable and encourages transparency by expanding the federal civil cause of action for child victims to also permit victims of online child sexual exploitation to bring a civil cause of action against tech platforms and app stores that promoted or facilitated the exploitation, or that host or store CSAM or make it available. A criminal provision prohibits the same conduct. The bill strengthens current CyberTipline reporting requirements; requires large tech companies that are subject to the CyberTipline statute to submit annual reports describing their efforts to promote a culture of safety for children on their platform; and further amends the CyberTipline statute to provide a variety of tools to promote compliance with the statute’s mandates. The bill was approved on a 21-0 unanimous vote.

The SHIELD Act, as amended, ensures that federal prosecutors have appropriate and effective tools to address serious privacy violations. The SHIELD Act would: ensure that the Department of Justice has an appropriate and effective tool to address serious privacy violations by establishing federal criminal liability for individuals who share private, sexually explicit or nude images without consent; fill in gaps in existing law that prevent prosecutors from holding those who share explicit images of children accountable; and protect the victims of these serious privacy violations, while leaving room for sharing consensual images and images of public concern. The bill was approved by voice vote.

The Project Safe Childhood Act, as amended, modernizes the investigation and prosecution of online child exploitation crimes. It would make improvements to how federal prosecutors and law enforcement work together and use new technology to go after predators. The bill would also require federal prosecutors to coordinate with law enforcement and experts to develop training materials and strategies to rescue child victims while quickly arresting offenders. The bill was approved by voice vote.

On April 19, Durbin unveiled the Stopping the Exploitation of Kids Online legislative package on the Senate floor. In February, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “Protecting Our Children Online,” which included powerful testimony from those working to increase children’s privacy and safety online. 

In addition to the three bills, the Committee voted to advance six nominees to the full Senate by the indicated vote totals:

  • Charnelle Bjelkengren, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Washington: 11-10;
  • S. Kato Crews, to be United States District Judge for the District of Colorado: 11-10;
  • Jeremy C. Daniel, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois: 14-7;
  • Marian F. Gaston, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of California: 11-10;
  • Brendan Abell Hurson, to be United States District Judge for the District of Maryland: 12-9; and
  • Darrel James Papillion, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana: 15-6.

An archived video of today’s hearing can be found here.